Lombard Law-Books, 1025-1125

The Liber Papiensis in Manuscript Context

by Thomas Gobbitt

Forthcoming 2020

Lombard law-books were produced and used throughout the eleventh and early-twelfth centuries, demonstrating their continuing historical and legal significance well beyond the end of the period of Lombard rule (568-774 CE). The eleventh and early-twelfth century books of Lombard law were relegated from scholarly attention through much of the twentieth century. Scholars of the Roman law followed a paradigm of the juristic revival having occurred in a scholarly vacuum, guided only by the authors of the late-antique texts, and ceased to consider its eleventh-century antecedents. At the same time, scholars interested in the Germanic past and the historical, social and legal contexts of the Lombard laws focused almost exclusively on their promulgation and earliest surviving manuscripts. More recently, emphasis in the scholarship has turned to focus on the significance of the Lombardist jurists from the late-tenth to early-twelfth centuries, and their redaction of an updated version of the Lombard laws, the Liber Papiensis, in laying the foundations for the later juristic revival.

In this monograph I present a nuanced view of the development of the law-book in this often-overlooked period by giving equal priority to the agency of the scribes and readers of individual manuscripts as to the authorial moments at which the laws were first promulgated and drafted. I focus in particular on the materiality and mise-en-page of the law-books, and the way these anticipated and facilitated reader interaction with the texts. The proposed monograph will make a vital contribution to the fields of early medieval law, legal culture and the history of the book in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries. I shall re-assess the book-culture of Lombard law-books through a closely focused manuscript-led study.  It challenges the received interpretations of this legal text as a monolithic redaction made by a single authority in the late tenth century, and argues instead that the unification of the two volumes into a single text occurred significantly later in the eleventh century under the agency of its scribes and readers.

About the author

Dr. Thomas Gobbitt’s research focuses on the intersection of the history of the law and the history of the book in early medieval western Europe to the twelfth century. In particular, he has focused on the manuscript contexts of the early medieval Anglo-Saxon and Lombard laws, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. He was awarded his PhD from the University of Leeds, UK in 2010, and since 2012 had been a researcher at the Institute for Medieval Research of the Austrian Academy of the Sciences, Vienna, Austria.